All Posts By Simon Majumdar

Simon Majumdar is an acclaimed food writer who travels the globe in search of the very best meals the world has to offer. He can be seen regularly on Food Network in shows such as Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Extreme Chef, and has also contributed numerous articles to FN Dish. Simon has published two best-selling food memoirs: Eat My Globe and Eating For Britain, and is currently touring the United States researching for his new book, Fed, White & Blue, which will catalog his journey to American citizenship.

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Emotional Goodbyes — Critical Moments

by in Shows, December 3rd, 2012

The Next Iron Chef: RedemptionThe curse of the auction challenge strikes again.

No one who watched The Next Iron Chef Season 4 will ever forget the look on Chef Burrell’s face as she realized that her decision to place eventual winner Chef Zakarian in the Secret Ingredient Showdown was going to come back and bite her in the backside. In Season 5, Chef Falkner found herself in the exact same position.

But first, let’s give due praise to Chef Vigneron. His stunning dish of braised beef cheeks proved that he had emerged from the shadow of high school shenanigans with his pal, Chef Mendelsohn, to make himself a very serious contender for a place in Kitchen Stadium.

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Taking the Rules Seriously – Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 26th, 2012

Chefs Vigneron and Mendelsohn with Alton BrownI am not sure that any chef would be pleased to be informed that they had to produce a meal almost entirely from the contents of a can. But if you want to become The Next Iron Chef, those are exactly the sort of obstacles that you have to overcome.

Chef Falkner’s mystery can contained a substance as far removed from USDA prime beef as I am from Brad Pitt. Despite this, she astounded everyone at the judging plinth by producing a dish so fine that it would have been acceptable in some of the best restaurants on the planet. It really was that good.

Chefs Mendelsohn and Vigneron, however, were far less successful. Chef Mendelsohn’s dish lacked balance, while the salt levels in Chef Vigneron’s dish drew the words “inedible” from all three judges and Alton Brown. It made it pretty obvious that these two high school friends would be competing against each other in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

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When Third Best Is Not Good Enough — Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 19th, 2012

Next Iron Chef Rival ChefsThis episode of The Next Iron Chef was particularly heartbreaking for me as I saw one of my favorite chefs in the whole country be eliminated. What made it worse was that Chef Greenspan found himself in the Secret Ingredient Showdown, not because he had cooked badly, but because his opponent in the “Simplicity” challenge, Chef Appleman, cooked just a hair’s breadth better.

After a visit to Farmers Market in Los Angeles, the Chairman’s demand was for each chef to sum up the personality of their opponent in a single bite based on an image taken by famed photographer Todd Selby.

Some were more successful than others. We all agreed, however, that Chef Freitag’s use of anchovies to represent “misunderstood” Chef Falkner made her our clear winner. Chef Mehta’s soggy attempt to represent Chef Mendelsohn was universally considered a flop and consigned him to the bottom of the pile. There he was joined by Chef Vigneron, who lost out by a whisper in his head-to-head with Chef Guarnaschelli.

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A Culinary Crumble — Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 12th, 2012

Alton Brown and the White Bread Secret Ingredient ShowdownFor the next challenge, the Chairman had tasked the remaining nine chefs with re-imagining three of my favorite street foods: falafel, tacos and the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. These are all dishes that I have sampled many times and because of that, I have very definite opinions on how they should be prepared.

Chef Mehta’s decision to take falafel in an Asian direction was an inspired and delicious one. I felt that he succeeded not only in capturing the flavors of all the ingredients, but also all the textures of a terrific falafel sandwich. He was my clear winner.

Far less successful were Chef Falkner, whose plate looked like an artist’s impression of where bad pasta goes to die; Chef Estes, whose taco soup was something I have seen quite a few times before and which was overpowered by the flavor of cilantro; and Chef Freitag, whose great flavors were lost in a dish that lacked cohesion.

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A Double Dose of Kale, Steak for One and the Death Fruit — Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 4th, 2012

Chef Spike Mendelsohn and Chef Tim Love on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption
Although Chef Guarnaschelli’s splendid lobster dish made her the deserved winner of a return trip to the beach, for me this first challenge was all about Chefs Greenspan and Love.

A chef with less talent and confidence than Chef Greenspan could have easily crumbled at the thought of having to cook with grasshoppers again. His critter fritters, however, were one of the surprise hits of the day, as indeed was his grilled cheese grasshopper sandwich — although maybe less surprising as he is known for making one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet. Either way, it was definitely enough to keep him safe for another week. If it weren’t for a succulent morsel of Chef Guarnaschelli’s perfectly prepared lobster, I would have made him my winner.

On the other hand, Chef Love’s confidence was misplaced. If you are going to serve a salad on The Next Iron Chef, it had better be the best salad you’ve made. Chef Love’s kale salad wasn’t — and all three judges felt it scarcely warranted the hour-long cooking time. Insult was added to injury when Chef Love told us that he had also found time to make a juicy steak for himself while he was cooking. Perhaps if he had served us some of that as well, he might not have found himself in the Secret Ingredient Showdown battling Chef Mendelsohn, whose own dish was, quite frankly, just a confused mess.

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Battle Potato — Road to Redemption Web Series Recap

by in Shows, October 28th, 2012

road to redemption battle potatoChef Estes and Chef Wong definitely earned their places in the final showdown and neither seemed particularly alarmed when Alton Brown revealed their secret ingredient: a wide range of potatoes.

After a rather frightening battle to claim other ingredients from the refrigerator, both chefs set about making two very different dishes. If creativity had been the only criteria, then Chef Wong would have been the clear winner. There were two main flaws with her dish, however, that meant we had to mark her down. I felt that the use of celery leaves was a mistake and overpowered some of the more subtle flavors, while Alton found the base of purple potato puree to be gluey and overworked.

Chef Estes’ dish was less adventurous and she was faced with a battle to persuade three experienced judges that a seemingly simple chowder was noteworthy. She did that with her perfect preparation of three different types of potato and an herb cream that had us all wiping the bottoms of our bowls with our fingers.

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Battle Coconut — Road to Redemption Web Series Recap

by in Shows, October 21st, 2012

battle coconut road to redemptionNext up to compete for that final spot in Season 5 are Chef Duskie Estes and Chef Roberto Treviño, both of who know all too well the pressures of competing to become The Next Iron Chef.

Although I was already very familiar with Chef Estes and her well-voiced determination to use local ingredients, this would be my first opportunity to witness the talents of Chef Treviño. I had, however, heard terrific things about his cooking, so knew we were in for a great battle.

The look on the faces of both chefs when Alton Brown revealed that the secret ingredient was coconut was worth the entrance money on its own. They both soon recovered and set about cooking two very different styles of dish. To be exact, Chef Treviño started cooking, while Chef Estes stared at her coconut for a few minutes like it was an alien and then hacked at it with a cleaver.

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Battle Peanut — Road to Redemption Web Series Recap

by in Shows, October 14th, 2012

road to redemption battle peanuts

This season of The Next Iron Chef is all about redemption.

Nine of the coveted places in the competition had been filled. The Chairman, however, had decided to leave one spot open, to be filled by the winner of a series of sudden-death cook-offs. It was a deliciously fiendish idea.

I was pleased when I received a call asking me to help judge this Web series. I was even more pleased when I heard that my co-judges would be Iron Chef Jose Garces and Alton Brown. I was also genuinely thrilled that the first two challengers were the immensely talented Madison Cowan and Lee Anne Wong, who had impressed the Chairman with victories in Kitchen Stadium previously.

When Alton announced that the mystery ingredient was peanuts, both chefs went straight to their happy places: in Chef Wong’s case, to her skills with Asian cuisine and in Chef Cowan’s case, exuberant Caribbean cookery.

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10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Pasta

by in Shows, September 17th, 2012

iron chef america battle pasta
Everybody has their favorite memory of a perfect pasta dish. My own came during a visit to a small restaurant in Rome where I was presented with a plate of Bucatini All’Amatricana, made with the tubular pasta and a spicy sauce containing guanciale (cured pig jowls). As I travel the globe eating the weird and the wonderful, it is often this comforting bowl of pasta that I recall and crave the most.

Pasta is such a familiar ingredient in the United States that it is often all too easy to take it for granted. There are few people who don’t have at least one type of pasta in their store cupboard and if you were to walk down the aisles of any supermarket, you would have to take off your shoes and socks to help you count the fresh and dried varieties now offered.

Despite its ubiquity, however, there is something about a beautifully prepared pasta dish that is very hard to beat and I hope you were as excited as I was by the way that the Iron Chef and their challenger brought a new spin to such a classic ingredient last night.

Given that pasta is, I suspect, so familiar to everyone who will read this, I thought I would stray from the normal format for these features and instead give you 10 interesting things you may not know about pasta.

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Cream Cheese — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, September 3rd, 2012

iron chef america battle cream cheese
It would be hard to disagree with anyone who argued that the spiritual home for a dollop of cream cheese is on a toasted bagel, in my case accompanied by an equally large spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.

As I hope the Iron Chef and his challenger proved during their exciting battle, however, this fresh, tangy cheese is far more versatile than some people might imagine and is definitely worth keeping on hand as a refrigerator basic.

What is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, fresh unripened cheese that is made from a combination of milk and heavy cream and by definition must contain at least 33 percent milk fats and less than 55 percent moisture.

It is one of the most popular cheeses in the United States and the most recent research I could find from 2008 reports that the average American consumes a little over 2.5 pounds of cream cheese every year.

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